Ok, I've always believed that if one offers a criticism he must also offer a solution. I talked about arming teachers in a previous post and I'm gratified to see that it is in fact happening in certain places. Most notably Texas. I applaud Lone Star Handguns and it's owner, Josh Felker. Well done Sir.
But this approach isn't going to go over as well in other places, especially those controlled by folks more hostile to the idea of an armed non-police presence in their schools. We need an alternative, one acceptable to a broader slice of society in it's current guise. I offer a modest concept and proposal I call the Volunteer School Safety Officer Program. VSSOP for short because I'm both prior military and retired police and we do love our acronyms. VSSOP a way to provide an armed police presence at every school in the nation on a daily and cost effective basis. Bear in mind three things. The emphasis is on local involvement and control and your local agency is going to have to grow at least a little. We can find the money we just have to find the will. In addition this isn't going to work in all places. Some will find the idea both alarming and undesirable. Some will decide it's unworkable. One size does not fit all. Lastly. Yes, there will be hurdles to jump, full time personnel to train and hire and funding to be found. Nothing requiring herculean or extraordinary efforts, just routine bureaucratic issues, the kind we deal with every day. This is just a general proposal and will have to be tailored to each individual locality to best serve the needs of it's citizens.
Warning. Those of you of a more Libertarian bent may find this proposal a little too statist. I understand and appreciate that. I ask only that you consider it from the point of view of those people and places that will not, indeed cannot accept the concept of an armed teacher. For them some solution must still be found. It may not be this one but the conversation is worth having in my opinion.
Ok, that said here's how it could work.
Most law enforcement agencies have a Civilian Volunteer Program, a Reserve Officer Program, a Citizen's Academy or some combination of all three. Volunteerism is a significant part of many agencies public service programs and offer a low cost way to give greater service. Research program like VIPS, Volunteers In Police Service, to see what I mean. Reserve Officer Programs let an agency put more cops on the street for a much reduced cost over full time officers. Citizen's Academies let the agency educate the general public on police procedures, policies and the Criminal Justice System in general. Policies, procedures and training plans are already in place and working right now for each of these programs. We know how to do this and are generally pretty good at it. Funds may come from the localities general fund, the department's budget or, given the current perceived crisis, federal grants. These programs are established, competent and working.
Let's take the idea to the next level, the Volunteer School Safety Officer Program.
First this must be a local program. That is, your staffing will be drawn from the immediate area where the officers will be utilized, generally at the City/Town or County level. It will be administered, supervised and commanded by the agency in charge of local law enforcement. Again that may be City/Town, County or in some remote cases State agencies. The chain of command is already extant. The program can be run through an existing Community Policing program with the training and supervisory assets already in place.
Second, we need that staffing. Volunteers will be sought who live locally (this can be extended for definitions of local depending on the rural nature of the municipality). Extra attention will be given to those who already possess the required skill sets like retired police officers, retired military, veterans, etc. Police agencies are well equipped and experienced in hiring police recruits so have the necessary skills and know how to do the hiring and the lengthy and encompassing background checks on all applicants. The applicant winnowing process is also well known and well proven. We'll then have a pool of qualified and motivated candidates that have passed an extensive background check complete with physical agility testing, a medical health physical and a thorough psychological screening. These officers will be part of the local law enforcement agency. Answerable to, controlled by and employed as volunteers by them. There are hundreds of thousands of highly trained and motivated folks out there who will volunteer for such a program tomorrow if invited. All we have to do is decide.
Third. Since this will be an armed service we need to address training. If the selection process goes well most of the candidates will already have much of the desired skills and training and will need only refresher courses but in all cases a detailed training curriculum will be in place to ensure thorough and uniform skills acquisition. Again, many agencies can rely on their existing plans for training their civilian volunteers and reserve officers with updates to reflect the increased responsibility and nature of the program. Academies that currently offer police officer training can be quickly and easily ramped up to offer a one stop training environment that both agencies and interested civilians can utilize. We in law enforcement have been doing this stuff for a very long time. We understand training requirements, needs, uniformity and liability very well. Every state already has in place a government commission that sets standards and has oversight for all police training. In California for example it's POST, Peace Officer's Standards and Training. California even allows interested civilians to attend an Academy unaffiliated with a police department in the hope of being hired by a smaller, less well funded agency. Many applicants for our VSSOP will be so motivated. It's all regular, expected and well established. Nothing new here.
Fourth. We need to equip our volunteer officers. Since all our training, command and control and the authority our officers will have come from a certified police agency their equipment will be procured through that same agency. Issued by and returned to them before and after every shift. That will give the agency effective control and accountability and ease the fears of states and localities that have stricter gun laws. Positions can be either uniformed or plain clothed depending again on the local needs and desires. Uniforms will be unique from those worn by full time, sworn police personnel for differentiation. Plain clothes will be approved by the parent organization. With the advent of Obama Care, medical insurance shouldn't be an issue however a blanket policy covering all affected participants may be purchased by the law enforcement agency perhaps in partnership with the school district. The same goes for a life insurance policy because, as I'll talk about in a bit, this may be quite necessary.
Fifth. How do we deploy this volunteer police force? The local agency will be the responsible for assigning shifts based on needs and manpower availability and keeping track of hours. Legislation may be needed to change allowable volunteer work hours or bypass state employment law. Nothing impossible or even unusual about any of that. Officers will be assigned to the same school with no unauthorized or unapproved overlap. This will allow our VSSOP officers to know each other by face and name as well as assigned students, school staff and parents. VSSOP officers will be present every school day and in cases where field trips are included may accompany as authorized, requested or required. Staffing will require enough VSSOP officers to fill all required vacancies and any sick or injured time. The employing agency will provide a marked vehicle for the VSSOP officers which he/she/they will park in a public place in the school parking lot at the beginning of each school day. Runouts and excess to needs vehicles will be ideal for this.
Sixth. The employing agency will have direct control over the program. The VSSOP officers will be supervised and evaluated by that agency and answerable to it's chain of command. The chief law enforcement officer will have ultimate authority over the program and all participants. This will allow the agency to have immediate and intimate oversight and the ability to quickly identify sub par officers and remove them from the program swiftly. I envision a sergeant as supervisor with day to day accountability and a staff officer in overall command but based on agency staffing requirements.
Ok, that's the basics. I've left out specifics because, as I said, each individual program will have to be tailored to the needs of the employing agency and it's state commission on peace officers. I don't envision officers with full police powers and that's not even required. In essence this will be an extension of the Reserve Officer and School Resource Officer concepts with a little VIPS thrown in. Since Reserves have limited arrest powers anyway VSSOP doesn't need to be any different. The differences will be in employment and the mind set of the VSSOP officers. VSSOP officers will be assigned as SCHOOL OFFICERS ONLY! No assignments to traffic control, patrol or any other non school related activity. Their one and only task is school safety. They may be asked to intervene in immediate school issues such as fights between students or counseling but only until a uniformed, full time patrol officer or SRO arrives on scene. Then it's back to their normal duties. They must be screened for, trained for and willing to march to the sound of the guns and take proactive action. That means to engage an active or potential shooter. Active Shooter requirements will be the expected course of action. No matter the personal cost. They will be the first line of defense and their selection and training must reflect that reality.
To my brothers and sisters in law enforcement. This can work. It's based on programs and concepts we already employ. The sheer numbers and size of the program, when taken on a national scale, are staggering but when broken down into the smaller portions required for local implementation it's completely within our competencies. I am completely serious about this, to the point that I am willing to set up and initially oversee a start up with an interested agency. On my own dime. I will come to your agency, write up the selection, training and staffing requirements as well as all policies and procedures required in line with your own and your state's. I'll cover all my own costs including lodging, food, vehicle and miscellaneous. I have administered COPS, Volunteer and Citizen's Academy programs. I have been involved with training cops for years, everything from Crime Prevention, to firearms to accident investigation. I understand the training and staffing environments and the problems, liabilities and issues that follow. I am also willing to consult with your own staff on the concept, again, totally free of cost to you.
Yes, there will be unforeseen obstacles. With new programs there always are. But nothing we cannot overcome with determination and a healthy dose of cooperation and savvy. I have omitted training and even hiring specifics in this precis precisely because each agency is different and will require it's own unique solutions and implementation. We are at a crossroads in this country. We can find real world solutions to the immediate and obvious needs of those we are sworn to serve and protect or we can watch as our country slides into chaos and a state of limited liberty. We have a voice. The only real question is how and if we'll use it. We can protect our children.
If anyone is interested or has questions about the concept or my qualifications you can contact me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will provide you with every bit of help I can.